To Evaluate or Procrastinate?


Now in full swing of Malaysian life, we have been loving our time here. Nick has been working hard examining hundreds of nervous little souls and I have been beavering away at my much neglected ‘List’. I did bring my violin, however it’s collecting dust at the back of the cupboard after my poorly violin mark under my chin needed a much needed rest.

Yesterday afternoon we decided to go through all the concerts we had recorded and videoed from our last season. A collection waiting to be viewed, however I have to admit that listening and watching myself play is not something I usually enjoy as so often I am extremely critical.

I do know players who will instantly go back to their dressing rooms after a concert, shut themselves away and take on the task of analysing each note and every phrase. When I’ve finished a concert, sometimes audience members will ask me, ‘How do you feel? How did you think you played?’ Honestly, quite often, that’s a very difficult question to answer! Is it really important how I feel? The real question is, have I achieved the task of communicating the composers music?

I do think an important part of being a musician is to acknowledge the learning process?(at any stage of your career)?and look back over your shoulder to see why some concerts are more successful than others. What I have learnt from watching all our videos yesterday was that how I felt at that moment after the performance bares no resemblance to how I feel now, 6 months later watching back.

One concert in particular, I remember how cold I was. Any violinist will know this feeling of frustration when you’re unsuccessful at achieving that tiny morsel of sweat and grip on the fingers to help facilitate an ease within shifts. There seems to be no depth in your sound. The violin feels cold in the chilly room and from here on in, it’s a downward spiral that can leave you feeling horribly uncomfortable.

Six months later, I am watching that same concert and I am pleasantly surprised that my insecurities at the time are not visible at all. If I had watched/listened to it straight away, or even a week later, I am almost certain that it would be like re-living the same thoughts from start to finish, ‘That shift wasn’t quite executed in the right way’, ‘The direction of that phrase isn’t quite long enough’, ‘My sound is dipping’, the list goes on?

Now, I have taken a step back, forgotten my stream of consciousness at the time and I am truly able to enjoy my own playing. Of course there are things I would change if I were re-living it but not in a critical way, more in a ‘how to make it better’ way. I think it is important to remember that music making isn’t about me and my insecurities but about me the listener. Separating yourself from ‘you’ the player and ‘you’ the listener.

So, how important is it to listen back straight away to your performance??Someone once told me, ‘Listen out for the things that shock you not the things you already know about’. I would like to be able to listen and learn as efficiently as possible and with time quite often not being on my side this means I have to learn to do it quickly. Wether it’s 5 minutes or 5 months after a performance, recording yourself and listening back is absolutely essential.

The question is how long does it take before you can constructively criticise yourself and feel enthusiastic and open to make changes for a more successful result? Ultimately, my aim is instantly!


  1. Does it make you half-yearn to live in days before listening to yourself was a possibility?!
    It’s funny, but as VHS, Casettes, CD’s, MP3’s, streaming/download have made listening to recordings more and more accessible, I think I’ve headed in the opposite direction in terms of my listening habits – I’d almost always shun recordings in favour of live performance (and, importantly, the memory of performances, unsullied by how they might have been captured by audio equipment). That’s totally to do with me as an audience member, rather than me as a performer, mind you. I still sort of love going back to old university recordings of me playing in orchestras and singing in choirs…

    Hope you’re enjoying all that lovely pasar malam food! x

  2. Honestly, would I really want to live in a world where you couldn’t listen to recordings?? No! It was Carnival of the Animals that did it for me aged 3 years old. Can you imagine if the conductor or producer of that recording decided it wasn’t good enough to share with the world (ergo me, aged 3) I wouldn’t have listened to ‘The Swan’ and shouted ‘I want to learn the violin!’
    I agree that live performances are always going to have that extra quality of ambience, anticipation and visual engagement but that’s my point… You as the audience member (or me, aged 3) will experience something quite different to the performer being recorded. That is why it is vital and incredibly valuable to record yourself. Self-evaluation is really hard but hey, no one ever said the best way to learn was going to be easy!

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